You have been through the meat grinder of the job search, gotten the offer, negotiated your acceptance [see this post!], and now you are getting ready to start the job. It is time to start thinking about what that means and the fact that how you begin your job contributes mightily to your eventual success.
So what do I know about starting a job? Well, I was once reminded during a podcast interview, that I have had a number of different jobs. So, I have started several jobs and from those experiences (and especially the mistakes I have made as a new employee), I have come to know what works and what does not. Additionally, I have hired and supervised dozens of new professionals and taught hundreds of master’s students preparing them for their first professional positions.
My first bit of advice is to buy and read the book The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins. He does a great job of suggesting perspectives and strategies for those starting new jobs in any field.
Here are some additional tips! The overarching idea is “Be proactive!” Especially, do not wait for your orientation to start or someone to initiate the things that will get you started and connected to your new organization and the people within it.
You are going to want to hit the ground running on Day 1, so you need to “self-socialize” ahead of time. That is, get those things done before you start that will otherwise suck time out of your first week. It will save time AND it will impress the heck out of your boss.
- Go to HR and get your benefits sorted out and get the pile of redundant forms filled out.
- Get your ID.
- Get your parking pass.
- Get your computer account and email set up.
- If possible, get the keys to your office and move in your belongings.
- Get on the unit and division website and read important documents (e.g., annual reports, strategic plans). If they aren’t there, ask for them.
- Update all your professional branding–LinkedIn, Twitter, resume, voicemail, etc.
It may be trite, but it is true–you do not get a second chance to make a first impression. Here’s how to assure that the first impression is a good one:
- Be on time! That is, be early! As Tom Coughlin, former NY Giants head coach, informed his players, “If you are on time, you’re late; five minutes early is on time.” Being new is not an excuse for not knowing where your office is and how long it takes to get there.
- Immediately start to change your pronouns. For the first weeks in a new job, our tendency is to refer to our former institution as “we,” as in, “the way we did training at…” or “our policies at…” So, naturally we refer to our new place as “you” or “they.” “Your RA training is a lot different than what we did.” However, “we” is actually the people at the new place, not the old place, and using pronouns in that way reinforces that you are an outsider. It will feel weird, but if you work at changing the pronouns from Day 1 people will start to recognize you sooner as an “insider.”
- Dress better than you might otherwise choose to, then during that first day, look at what people wear and plan to dress towards the higher end of those at your level. Yes, express your style, but do it within the range associated with the position. I have seen new staff members dress “down” as they had as grad students and not be taken seriously by their supervisors. Look at your boss and your boss’ boss as potential examples of the divisional culture as it relates to attire.
- Be courteous to EVERYONE – secretaries, janitors, security, clerks, etc. This is, of course, good advice for anyone, but as we begin a job, our tendency is to focus on those who will be judging us (supervisors, peers, upper administrators) and this can cause other people (e.g., secretaries, support staff) to become invisible. Do not let this happen, as you will likely rely on these people down the road.
- In fact, take time to get to know administrative and clerical staff. They are often the people who have served in the organization the longest and can provide you with historical context you might not get anywhere else.
- Set up meetings with your supervisor and peers in order to get to know them, their values, and their priorities. At the end of each of those meetings ask, “Who else should I talk to?” and add those people to your meeting list.
- In your first meeting with your supervisor ask what outcomes or deliverables are expected from you in the first three months.
- Ask questions, even when you think you know the answer. The tendency is to fear being perceived as “not knowing.” Consciously suppress this fear and ask anyway. You will learn that much more quickly AND you will often discover you actually did not know the answer!
- Send thank you notes to everyone who helped you during the first several weeks. Keep a box of thank you cards in your desk.
You will be new for a while, but you will not feel new for long if you proactively take control over your own orientation in order to speed the socialization process.
What other advice do you have for those starting new jobs? Thanks!
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